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EDITORIAL: 1-15 February 2000


The decade-long insurgency, or militancy, in Jammu and Kashmir continues unabated. Since 1997 it was perceived in New Delhi and Srinagar that the militancy is on the wane, hence no measures were taken to tackle this burning issue except treating it, as usual in India in the early stages of every problem, as a ‘law and order’ issue, to be dealt with greater fire-power and more security measures. The Kargil infiltration and now the Indian Airlines plane hijacking have given a new lease of life to militancy in Jammu & Kashmir. Militancy has not only come back with a vengeance, there is marked qualitative change as well: daring attacks on security installations and unabated activity even in the Valley’s sub zero temperatures of the winter.

At the same time there were unexpected signals from the All-Party Hurriyet Conference, the political façade of militancy in J&K. No doubt this is a reflection of the popular discontent vis-a-vis the hopeless situation in the Valley. 

For years New Delhi wanted a dialogue with APHC. Now Hurriyet leaders, like Abdul Ghani Lone and Mirwaiz Maulawi Umar Farooq, are giving positive signals that the APHC is ready to talk to New Delhi. The APHC has even officially said recently that Pakistan does not represent the J&K people — a stand which is clearly against both the Indian and Pakistani official views that the Kashmir tangle is an issue concerning the governments of India and Pakistan alone. In other words, the Kashmiri people had no say or role in the issue according to the official line of thinking in both Islamabad and New Delhi. Pakistan, on the other hand, had all along asserted that it alone represented ‘Muslim’ Kashmir. 

Despite this clear departure from early positions, New Delhi did not take notice of the new developments and APHC overtures. Instead of starting a dialogue at once, New Delhi continues to consider the Kashmiri issue as a matter of law and order. Most of the APHC leaders have now been thrown into jails in inhuman conditions. Political leaders of considerable standing at home and abroad, like APHC chairman Syed Ali Geelani and APHC spokesman Prof. AG Bhat, are herded together in ‘c’ class cells with petty criminals. Sick and elderly are denied medical attention. Most of the leaders have been sent away to far off places, like Jodhpur in Rajasthan, to make life difficult for them, their families, friends and lawyers. This is not the attitude expected of a humane and caring administration in an age characterized by human rights for all, even for criminals.

Here is a golden opportunity to settle a burning issue with utmost advantage to India at home and abroad. Our image abroad has taken a beating due to the continued militancy in the Valley. If we can settle the problem with APHC, Pakistan will be automatically left out in the cold. The Indian constitution and official commitments allow a lot of leverage for the government to arrive at an honorable settlement acceptable to both New Delhi and APHC. A meaningful autonomy with easy travel facilities for the Kashmiris within Jammu & Kashmir and the so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’ and restoration of genuine democracy in the state of J&K may be enough to placate the ruffled feathers of our brothers in the Valley. No one has tried to listen to their tragic story. No one has tried to wipe their tears. Let us not forget that the blatant and massive rigging of the assembly elections in March 1987 by the Farooq Abdullah regime was the last straw which led to the emergence of the militancy in the Valley in July 1988. Thus the slow process of the Kashmiris’ integration into India was brutally halted by people foisted upon the Valley by New Delhi. Dr Farooq is now ruling once again, thanks to the blind central government support, using the same old methods he and his predecessors used to the chagrin of the people in Kashmir. During the last phony elections, too, his government resorted to similar tactics and he was reported to having said publicly that the government has a right to make people vote by use of force.

Let there be fair and just elections in the presence of local and foreign monitors and whosoever wins should form the next government. This has happened in other parts of India in the south, Assam and North-East. There is no reason to believe why this cannot be repeated in Kashmir. The people in Kashmir have the same, if not more, right to democracy and freedom which was promised to them when they acceded to India.

To our Kashmiri brothers, we say: we understand your agonies and shikwah. We understand your sacrifices for a cause dear to many of you. But this is not the way to achieve what you want. You have been used again and again by Pakistan to settle scores with India. Why should you allow yourself to be used and exploited in order to fulfill others’ agenda? You have already sacrificed about a quarter of your youth, your economy lies in ruins, tourism and handicrafts are in shambles, education is almost non-existent... The fate of a whole generation has been compromised. Like any brave people, don’t be prisoner of your past. Politics is the art of the possible. Try what is possible for you and strive for your own agenda and work for your own future. We call upon you to take up your worthy place in this country — come forward and lead the second largest Muslim community in the world, larger than the whole population of Pakistan. The truncated Pakistan has nothing to offer you. Suffering from shameful sectarian violence, perpetual political instability, stinking corruption, inhuman jagirdari system, and eternally unsure of its future and purpose, it is not worth your attention.

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